Uh oh. Usually when a guy smiles at you, he likes you–which is awesome, right? Well, maybe not. A new study says that some guys smile because they’re sexist–and if they hide behind a grin, you’re less likely to realize it. Yikes!
Researchers studied men’s body language and its effect on women, and it turns out, even when a guy is acting like a total jackass, if he smiles, we’re pretty likely to do what he says. Here’s how they did it: They put a guy in a dominant role in the study, having him dole out instructions to the women. What the researchers found was that we were more likely to like a guy if he smiled–kind of “duh,” right?–but that we were also a lot more likely to be submissive to him if he smiled, too. We’d even like him if he said something that only a sexist pig would say. WTF?!
It’s because women are a lot more likely to rely on body language in communication than guys are. Body language expert Patti Wood explained, “Even if there’s dissonance between what’s been said and what his body is doing, women will look to the body. If they see a smile, then the interaction seems more friendly.” Basically? If he’s smiling while saying something nasty, we’ll assume he means it in a nice way. And that’s usually not the case at all. (Think of the guys who say gross stuff about your boobs, but act like they’re giving you a compliment instead of actually sexually harassing you.)
So how can we deal? If a guy smiles, great. But if he smiles and says something sexist, don’t be fooled by his pearly whites–believe what he says verbally. “Think through the verbal message before you respond,” Patti Wood advises. “If he says something sexist and you smile or shrink, it means he can get away with it.”
Not if we can help it!
Do you think guys use body language to get away with sexist behavior? How do you deal with a sexist guy? Have you ever dealt with sexism at school or work? Tell us in the comments!